By Jon Krawczynski, Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS — Karl-Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic represent the big men of the new millennium — versatile, do-everything combo guards in the bodies of centers who are giving their downtrodden franchises hope that better days are right around the corner.
Towns has gotten the better of the one-on-one matchup against Jokic in all three games against Denver this season. On Sunday, he finally got a win, too.
Towns had 32 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists and hit the go-ahead shot with 42.5 seconds left to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 111-108 victory over the Nuggets.
Towns hit 13 of 19 shots and also had four blocks and Andrew Wiggins scored 24 points in Minnesota’s fourth straight home win. Shabazz Muhammad scored 20 points off the bench and the Wolves rallied from nine points down midway through the fourth quarter for the win.
“He’s playing out of his mind right now,” Wiggins said of Towns. “He’s doing it all. Rebounding, scoring, defending, everything. There’s nothing he’s not doing right now.”
Gary Harris scored 22 points and Jokic had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back. Wilson Chandler and Jamal Murray added 17 points each for Denver, which played without Emmanuel Mudiay because of a sore back.
Kris Dunn had 10 points and nine assists for the Wolves while starting for Ricky Rubio, who missed the game to attend his grandmother’s funeral.
The Wolves were down 100-91 midway through the fourth quarter when Towns and Muhammad keyed a 12-2 run. Muhammad finished the spurt with a layup for a 103-102 lead, Wiggins hit a 3-pointer and Towns knocked down a jumper from the baseline to put the Wolves up for good in a thriller.
“At the end of the game when the ball touched my hands, I knew I wanted that shot,” said Towns, who hit a similar jumper to help the Wolves beat the Clippers on Thursday.
Nuggets: Danilo Gallinari had 14 points and six rebounds. … Mudiay stayed home in Denver to get treatment for his back. The hope is that it is a short-term injury.
Timberwolves: Gorgui Dieng was limited to six minutes in the first half after picking up three quick fouls in the first quarter. … Rubio is expected to rejoin the team on Monday. … Towns became the second player in franchise history to have consecutive games with at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Kevin Garnett did it five times.
Muhammad made 9 of 14 shots, including two 3s and hustled on defense as well, giving the Wolves some much-needed production off the bench. Zach LaVine had another quiet night as he works his way back from a hip injury, but Muhammad picked up the scoring slack. He reached double figures for the fourth time in seven games and played all 12 minutes in the fourth.
Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur had 10 points and three blocks in 21 minutes and had a huge defensive flurry early in the fourth quarter. He blocked shots by Towns and Wiggins and forced a travel by Towns during a 9-0 run that put Denver in front. He was listed as questionable with a sore left knee, and Malone said a minutes restriction prevented Arthur from finishing the game.
“Every minute Darrell was on the floor, he fought,” Malone said. “He made Towns work.”
Mudiay’s absence meant the rookie Murray moved from shooting guard to point guard with the second unit. He was a team-best plus-13 for the game and said he felt comfortable playing there despite his reputation as a scorer.
“I finally got a good home,” Murray said. “I love playing the point, my natural position.”
Nuggets: Denver heads back home to host Utah on Tuesday.
Timberwolves: Minnesota has a quick one-game road trip to Phoenix on Tuesday.